The Empire style is often considered the second phase of Neoclassicism which flowed through Europe and America until around 1830. It gained footing outside these the major metropolitan centers well past the mid-nineteenth century. The style originated with the rule of Napoleon I, who was known as the First French Empire. The style corresponds to the Biedermeier style which was associated with King Carl XIV Johan who had strong German and Danish influences. Biedermeier styled furniture expanded to many different areas of Sweden and stretched to areas such as Vienna, Germany, Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Biedermeier furniture was not an individual movement in one area, but rather as a series of ideas that gained tremendous popularity that extended past regions and boundaries. (All pictures From Neoclassicism in the North: Swedish Furniture and Interiors 1770-1850)
It all started in Sweden when the Empire style first started to flourish in 1823 when Queen Desiree returned to Sweden after twelve years of being in Paris, and the prosperous middle-class families demanded quality, elegant, yet practical furniture at a reasonable price points. Desiree who was once the fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte, and lived and breathed in the Empire style for many years, so it was no wonder the style took shape when she returned to Sweden after being in France for so many years.
Desiree Clary's life was an interesting one. We often think that monarchy enjoys the best of the best, but her life seemed to be sadly puzzling. Napoleon Bonaparte was once involved with Desiree Clary, but later became involved with Joséphine de Beauharnais whom he then married, and broke off his engagement with Désirée. Désirée then moved in with her sister Julie and her brother-in-law Joseph, who was the French ambassador to Rome. Designers of Empire design drew their inspiration from Classical Imperial Rome, so it was interesting that she danced around the Roman design which could have influenced her interest, which later saw its emergance in Sweden.
Her husband Jean Baptiste Jules Bernadotte married Desiree Clary and was elected to the throne in Sweden in 1810. Désirée became quite depressed when she found out that she was to leave Paris. When she arrived in Sweden for the first time and she really had a tough time. She must have felt so at home in France that she didn't entertain the idea of moving to a foreign country. She didn't comply to the demands of formal court etiquette, and the snobbery from the Queen and general court was too much for her to deal with. She never did learn the Swedish language, and kept her self quite distant in her new court. In addition, the harsh winters of Sweden were more than she could handle. She moved to Sweden in the middle of winter and shock of the cold weather left her endlessly crying.
She just didn't want to be there, and did not want to move from France. She dug her heels in with her stubbornness, or perhaps the realization of the sad reality of what she left in France. The Queen found her to be spoiled and described Desiree as "a French woman in every inch," who disliked and complained about everything which was not French. She missed her home in Paris so much that she simply returned to Paris, and stayed there for twelve years, even leaving her husband and her son behind, and disregarded that it was a difficult period time for Sweden as they were at war with France.
Her husband met her in Paris some time later, but again returned to Sweden without her as she didn't want to leave. She was ridiculed by the court of France, and felt hated in Sweden. After twelve years in France she returned to Sweden and it was then that the Empire style really took shape and became popular, mostly from Queen Desiree's love for France, and the neoclassical movement that surrounded her for many years. Perhaps she was bringing a bit of France (which she considered her her true home) to Sweden.
Neoclassicism in the North: Swedish Furniture and Interiors 1770-1850 features twenty houses and apartments elegantly furnished in the Swedish Neoclassical style.
From royal salons with exquisite Pompeian style to modest spatter-painted Biedermeier halls, the beautiful Neoclassical houses of Sweden are of interest to any person who closely follows Empire Furniture.
The text traces the evolution of the Neoclassical style in Sweden, placing it in its wider European context, and explores each of the buildings and its history. Plans, and original drawings are included in this book by the architects and designers.
This is one of my personal favorite books that can be found on Neoclassical furniture. It combines some really rich interiors, but also those with a unique Swedish twist, - white washed floors, plank wood walls, painted interiors, much like French but entirely Swedish. I know you will enjoy this variation of Empire furnishings. This is one of the best books I have personally owned.